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Awards and conference highlight best in kid lit

Kristen B. Morales

February 27, 2015

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Children's authors and illustrators will have their time in the spotlight during an annual event on the University of Georgia campus March 6-7.

The 46th annual Georgia Children's Book Awards and Conference on Children's Literature, sponsored by the UGA College of Education, is a chance for teachers, media specialists, librarians, faculty and book lovers to come together and celebrate heroes, villains and, in the case of one author, a flamingo.

Along with the conference, which takes place March 6-7 at the University of Georgia Hotel & Conference Center, the Georgia Children's Book Awards will honor its winners from the 2013-2014 selection process: Illustrator Jennifer Sattler and author R.J. Palacio. Sattler won in the picturebook category for her book "Sylvie," about a flamingo, and Palacio won in the chapter book category for her young adult novel "Wonder."

This year's event will also name the winners of the most recent round of voting, which began as a list of 20 nominees last year. Hundreds of thousands of Georgia children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade voted on the books during the school year. Books were nominated based on recommendations from librarians and media specialists, who then give the children a chance to experience the books before voting.

Along with the awards, children's book enthusiasts can fill up on book signings, storytelling tips, classroom strategies and interactive activities for readers of all ages.

This year's conference also features several new components, including a spotlight on Watkinsville author Susan Nees, a Friday evening reception sponsored by the Southern Breeze Region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and workshops with authors and illustrators.

Local bookseller Avid Bookshop is also celebrating the authors and book enthusiasts coming to town with events throughout the week before the event. The shop will host special appearances from middle-grades author Mark Goldblatt on Monday, a panel of five YA authors on tour with Penguin Books on Wednesday and a visit from nationally recognized children's book illustrator Greg Christie on Thursday.

Plus, in conjunction with the conference on Saturday, students in fourth through 12th grades from across the state will compete in the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, a "Jeopardy"-style team reading competition based on books nominated by the Georgia Children's Book Awards.

The conference, which is open to the public, typically draws hundreds of educators, librarians and book lovers from across the Southeast. Registration is $179 ($55-$85 for students) with author workshops for $10 each. For more details and to register, visit coe.uga.edu/gcbac.